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If IKEA Built Mass Timber Office Buildings This Is How It Would Go

It may not have been the original idea, but a new mass timber office building just completed in Portland, OR was prefabricated at a factory in Austria and flat-packed to the building site where it was assembled.

The mass timber segment of the building trade got a new twist recently when a just-completed three-story office building in Portland, OR was pre-built in a factory in Austria and then set up on the site, a larger-scaled version of IKEA’s famous do-it-yourself assembly furniture.

“You can compare it to IKEA furniture,” Sebastian Popp, technical director at KLH USA, the Portland arm of the Austria-based firm that provided cross-laminate timber and glulam beams for the structure, told the international architecture and design magazine Metropolis. “But these are bigger boards on a bigger scale—pre-cut, pre-packed and pre-planned.”

Panels and beams were produced in Austria, he said, then shipped to the U.S. and brought by train to Portland. “They were labeled and delivered just-in-time to the site when they were needed,” Popp added.

The 9,555-square-foot structure is the first all-wood building in the state, according to Waechter Architecture, which designed it. “Our big challenge was to do everything out of CLT (cross-laminate timber), floors and walls and stairwells, all premanufactured in the factory,” architect Ben Waechter told Metropolis. The firm itself has its offices in the building, which also includes a coffee shop, public space and even an apartment for Waechter.

The report said that since CLT shear walls are not yet a code-recognized seismic system in Oregon, the design followed statewide alternate methods intended for limited use in small buildings. Added the engineer on the project, “It took many conversations with the local building department to allow the system to be used for a full, three-story building. Mass timber does all the work.”

[Photography: Lara Swimmer for Waechter Architecture]

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